Daniel Weix, assistant professor of chemistry, has been recognized by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of the next generation of scientific leaders. Weix is one of 126 U.S. and Canadian researchers selected as recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships for 2013.
"The Sloan Research Fellows are the best of the best among young scientists," said Dr. Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "If you want to know where the next big scientific breakthrough will come from, look to these extraordinary men and women. The Foundation is proud to support them during this pivotal stage of their careers."
Weix calls it an honor to be counted among such a distinguished list of chemists. He said, "The funds will enable us to investigate new concepts in cross-electrophile coupling that we haven't had the resources to pursue."
Weix, who specializes in organic (carbon-based) synthesis, is working on developing better ways of creating molecules in order to accelerate the discovery of new, useful compounds, including pharmaceuticals.
Most methods for making carbon-carbon bonds unite a nucleophile—which donates electron pairs—with an electrophile—which accepts electron pairs. The carbon nucleophiles are especially difficult to manufacture, making them costly and hard to obtain for researchers who need them to conduct their lab work.
"If a compound can't be easily made by a pharmaceutical company," said Weix, "we'll never know if it has the potential of being an effective drug. What potential cures are we missing?"
Weix's research program has developed several new methods of directly coupling—or joining—two different carbon electrophiles.
"This chemistry is just in its infancy, but there is already strong interest among pharmaceutical companies."
Weix earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. He joined the University of Rochester faculty in 2008. He's received several honors, including the Thieme Chemistry Journal Prize and an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award.
Administered and funded by the Sloan Foundation, the fellowships are awarded in eight scientific fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. Winners are selected through close cooperation with the scientific community. To qualify, candidates must first be nominated by their fellow scientists and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars. Fellows receive $50,000 to be used to further their research.